Almond Milk Round Up

Almond Milk Chia PuddingAfter enjoying a few straight glasses of my chilled Almond Milk last week, I began wondering what else I could use it for. A lot, it turns out! If you’ve made almond milk and now have a large container of the stuff staring at you from the fridge asking to be used, here are a few ideas of what to do with it – have a look and drool at these links:

Superfood Chia Breakfast Bowl
Salted Almond Milk Caramel Brownies
Banana Almond Milk Ice Cream

I polished mine off for breakfast with a variety of chia puddings, so good!

 

The Food of Spain: Nutty Chocolate Ginger Cake – Gluten & Dairy Free

Nutty Chocolate Ginger Cake

Sometimes you need cake.

My lovely friend Ruth is getting married soon. The ladies gathered to celebrate last week and we all   ‘brought a plate’. Making certain I could join in the eating; this Nutty Chocolate Ginger Cake was born. Chocolate and ginger go hand in hand, and I find using grated root ginger gives a distinct fresh flavour over ground ginger, bringing the cake spicy, almost tropical, undertones. I used very dark chocolate with 85% cocoa mass. It keeps the cake from being overly sweet, with a very moist torte texture. I topped it off with coconut cream chocolate frosting.

Inspiration hit after reading through a number of nut and egg based cake recipes in The Food of Spain. These nut cakes are made mostly with whipped egg-whites creating a super soft crumb.

And even better, this recipe is gluten free and dairy free.

‘Dairy free?’ you say, ‘But it has chocolate in it!’
Yes, it has chocolate in it  –  damn.good.chocolate.

I use dairy free chocolate from Alter Eco. It’s utterly decadent and worth every cent. Hunt for it at your local health food store, but if you can eat dairy with abandon use whatever chocolate you prefer. I’m a fan of dark bitter chocolate, but if you’re not, take a step down from 85% dark and use something a little lighter in the cake. The coconut cream frosting is suited to a less bitter chocolate, I suggest using 60% or less.

To keep ginger a primary flavour, I used ginger liqueur in the cake batter. Our little bar cabinet happens to contain a bottle of Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur. I’m a sucker for awesome bottles! From my research it seems to be gluten free. ‘Stones Green Ginger Wine’ would also work well. If you skip the liqueur all together, add extra grated root ginger for more kick.

Nutty Chocolate Ginger Cake – Gluten & Dairy Free

Serves 12

6 large eggs
4 Tbsp of Domaine de Canton (Ginger Liqueur)
150g coconut sugar
100g dark bitter chocolate, broken into pieces (dairy free eg Alter Eco)
2cm long chunk of ginger root, finely grated
100g walnuts
100g macadamias
coconut oil to grease the pan
cocoa to dust the cake tin
preserved ginger to decorate

Begin by preheating your oven to 180˚C. Prepare a 25cm spring-form cake tin by greasing it with coconut oil, and dusting generously with cocoa.

In a large bowl beat the egg yolks with the liqueur, coconut sugar and grated ginger, until well combined the coconut sugar is fully dissolved.  Carefully melt the dark bitter chocolate in a double boiler over low heat, and mix into the egg mixture.

Using a food processor, coarsely chop the walnuts and macadamias. The ground nuts should be similar in texture to chunky bread crumbs, you want some finely ground nuts mixed with some coarse pieces. Fold them into the chocolate egg mixture.

In the clean bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg whites till stiff and fold them very gently into the cake batter. Spoon the batter into the pre-prepared cake tin and bake for 45 minutes till firm. Watch carefully that the cake top does not colour too deeply. Cover with foil if need be. Once done, leave the cake to cool completely in the tin before attempting to turn it out.

Top with coconut chocolate frosting (recipe below) and garnish with slices of preserved ginger.

Coconut Chocolate Frosting

400g can of full fat coconut cream
60g of 60% dark chocolate (dairy free)

Note: Use a good quality, organic brand of coconut cream without additives. For the frosting you want the coconut cream to separate in two separate layers, a rich creamy top layer, leaving the coconut water behind. It helps to put the can into the fridge beforehand. Coconut cream with added emulsifiers will not separate, so read the ingredient label carefully.

For the frosting scoop out the top layer of coconut cream from your chilled can into a small saucepan (You should have approximately 200g worth of top cream from a 400g can, save the remaining coconut water for a smoothie). Warm the coconut cream gently over low heat till almost boiling. Remove from the heat and add the chocolate broken into pieces, stirring till the chocolate has melted. Place in the fridge to chill and thicken to frosting consistency. Spread generously over the cooled cake.

Nutty Chocolate Ginger Cake

The Food of Spain: Horchata – Almond Milk

Horchata Almond Milk

You know when you’ve heard of someone but never met them and then when you finally meet them they look nothing like what you imagined? Well, I get thrills from trying and buying uncommon foods, and I really really wanted to find tiger nuts for Claudia Roden’s recipe for Horchata de Chufa, Tiger Nut Milk. To help me on my quest I ‘googled’ tiger nuts so I at least knew what I was looking for. I’d conjured up a picture of a cute round nut (if nuts can be called cute), with little stripes all over it, about the size of a marble. Turns out tiger nuts are actually wrinkly, shriveled and look a little bit like a small brain. They also happen to be elusive, I couldn’t find any on my rounds through the local health food stores, and again turning to ‘google’ for help, the internet lead me to terrible comments on forums about actual tigers and their actual nuts.

Enough said.
I decided to use almonds instead.

Nut milk principles are pretty much the same worldwide, search for ‘nut milk’ and you’ll find a million recipes giving you the same steps. Traditionally in Spain nut milk is sweetened slightly and some regions infuse it with lemon peel. It’s also perfectly good straight, but I drank mine with some lemon rind and a meedjol date on the side for a slightly sweet chilled drink.

Almond Milk – Horchata

250g raw almonds
1 litre of water

Rinse the almonds well, cover them with a generous amount of water and soak for a minimum of 12 hrs (I left mine soaking for 24 hrs). After soaking, get rid of any almonds floating on the top of the water, this is a sign the nut is old and rancid. Drain the nuts and rinse them again. Place them in a food processor or blender with 250ml of fresh water. Blend to a soft paste and scrape down the sides of your machine. Pour in another 250ml of water and blend again. Add the remaining 500ml of water and stir well. Store in the fridge for 2-3 hours to infuse.

Using a fine cloth, line a colander resting over a bowl and slowly pour the nut milk through. The liquid will drain into the bowl and the nut pulp will remain in the cloth. Roll up your sleeves and twist the nut pulp in the cloth so you can squeeze the remaining liquid out of the pulp, a messy but very satisfying business. Pour the almond milk into a container and store in the fridge. It will keep well for up to 3 days. If you wish to sweeten the almond milk use a natural sweetener like honey.

Coconut Chai with Warm Turmeric & Black Pepper

Coconut Chai with Warm Turmeric & Black PepperEven as I’m toasting myself outside in the sun on a beautiful spring day, I still crave a hot mug of something.  Tea. Tea is my friend, and in the words of Fyodor Dostoevsky, “I say let the world go to hell, but I shall always have my tea.

But some times you need tea with a twist, a bit of spice, and a little kick.
Let me introduce you to Coconut Chai.
The perfect mug of deep golden nutty tea to drink no matter what the weather.

Today I’m sipping it in the backyard enjoying the spring air, but I can imagine tucking a small thermos in my pack to be taken on a day cross-country skiing. The turmeric gives the tea a soft earthy flavour and the pepper keeps the spices kicking.

Coconut Chai with Warm Turmeric & Black PepperCoconut Chai with Warm Turmeric & Black Pepper – Dairy Free

Serves 2

400ml can coconut milk
2 tsp loose leaf black ceylon tea
1 ½ tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp cracked black pepper
A pinch of allspice
A pinch of ground cloves
A pinch of turmeric
2 tsp of honey

Place all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. Stirring regularly, allow the mixture to warm through and tea infuse into the coconut milk, but do not bring to a boil.  After 5 minutes pour through a sieve into two tea cups and serve with a fresh crack of black pepper.

 

The Food of Spain: Salmon in Salsa Verde with Asparagus

Salmon Salsa Verde

 

I was known as ‘the child who ate anything’. Curry, cabbage, lentils. But honestly the truth is, I was a pro at fibbing; wanting to please everyone I hid my dislike of pickles, corn, eggs and marshmallows like my life depended on it.  A little sprig of curly-leaf parsley perched on top of a dish always sent shivers down my spine. It conjured up thoughts of eating fluffy grass. Strangely, I’d happily devour long thin blades of actual grass, but parsley was the frilly monster, set to get stuck in my teeth and cause all range of riot in my mouth.

Parsley and I finally got acquainted, I don’t know what quite helped me turn the corner but it might have had something to do with meeting his flat-leafed friend. Thankfully my childhood taste buds with a love of real grass didn’t fall off the face of the earth when the rest of my palate morphed into a parsley, pickle, corn, and egg  loving adult. I still enjoy grass on a summer afternoon, swiping the odd blade, feeling a little like my childhood cat that lay in the sun nibbling grass from her paws. But I still pass on the marshmallows, every time. They involve too many flashbacks from childhood party games, mouths being progressively filled with sickly sweet miniature pink and white pillows while having to say idiotic sentences like, “I love marshmallows” – it couldn’t have been further from the truth!

Back to my new found friend Parsley – he plays the starring role in this adapted recipe from The Food of Spain by Claudia Roden. Claudia describes parsley as ‘the Basque herb’.  The sauce, Salsa Verde, makes this dish. It’s a surprisingly soft blend of parsley, garlic, olive oil and the flavoursome juices released by the salmon as it cooks. Traditionally this recipe calls for hake, but being a lover of salmon and Spain being a lover all fish in the sea, salmon it was.

Salmon in Salsa Verde with Asparagus

1 bunch of asparagus
salt
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp gluten free cornflour
2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 salmon steaks, on the bone

Trim the asparagus of its woody ends, and place in a saucepan with just enough water to cover, adding a pinch of salt. Boil for a brief 3-4 minutes and remove, reserving the cooking water separately.

Warm the extra virgin olive oil in a large frypan over gentle heat with the garlic. Do not let the garlic brown.  Once the garlic is aromatic add in the cornflour and stir for a minute. Toss in the parsley and slowly add 250ml of the reserved cooking water from the asparagus. Add a little bit a time, stirring well between each addition to incorporate the fluid into the sauce. Increase the heat under the pan to medium, add a little salt and simmer for about 8 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.

Place the salmon steaks into the pan with the sauce. Gently swirl the pan to move the fish through the sauce, this will help the fish juices released during cooking to mix into the salsa verde, creating a slightly jelly like texture.

After 5 minutes turn the salmon over, and return the asparagus to the pan. The second side will take approximately 3 minutes to cook. Serve with freshly boiled baby potatoes and generous spoonful’s of sauce ladled over the fish.

The Food of Spain: Tortilla Español

Tortilla3

 

Tortilla Español (Spanish omelette) comes in as many varieties as the regions of Spain, no doubt every Spanish aunt and grandmother argues over the ‘perfect’ recipe.  To pay homage to the infamous tortilla, Claudia’s book ‘The Food of Spain’ dances delicately around the issue by containing three recipes, each with a slightly different cooking method and a list of variations. A little bit of jamón, smoked cod, onions poached in olive oil, or vegetable of choice – it truly is one of those dishes you can make your own. Even better, it’s the perfect way to use that lonely capsicum looking reproachfully at you every time you rummage through the vegetable draw at the bottom of your fridge.

Scavenging through my kitchen at the end of the day wondering what to cook, I found: baby potatoes, asparagus, parsley, and some leftover cooked rice. My tortilla was born.

Tortilla1

 

With four cooking methods listed, I chose the safe option: baking. The other methods involved flipping and grilling. Call me ‘chicken’ but I was hanging out to eat the thing, not clean it off the floor. So without further fuss…

Tortilla de Patatas con Espárragos /Potato and Asparagus Omelette

Inspired by Claudia Roden

4 baby potatoes cut into small cubes

½ c of cooked rice (omit and increase volume of potato if desired)

1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends removed, sliced on the diagonal

4 spring onions, thinly sliced

1 large bunch of parsley, stalks removed, cut finely

1 crushed clove of garlic

Zest of one lemon

½ tsp smoked sweet paprika

9 eggs

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 160˚C.

Combine the potato, rice, asparagus, spring onion, parsley, garlic, zest and paprika in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl whisk the eggs together and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour the eggs into the potatoes and vegetables, stirring well. Turn the tortilla mixture into a large oiled dish and bake for 45-60 minutes, making sure to check on your little tortilla friend at 30 minutes and cover with foil if browning too quickly.

Eat large slices hot or cold.

Tortilla2

Old Pages

Grandma's cookbook

 

Her handwriting runs across the page, a delicate but rambling scrawl. It reminds me of stumbling over my own hand written notes from long ago, where I need to pause a moment to make out the haphazard pen marks hastily scratched on the page without a thought to neatness, and as I recall the place and time belonging to the note, the indecipherable word becomes clear like a memory. Even with its familiar shape and style, my Grandmother’s handwriting feels like reading a language I’m only beginning to learn. Those flourishes and tightly packed letters are comforting, reminding me of year upon year of sweet birthday cards containing little love notes in squiggly script.

I’m reading her recipes, noted down in a teal covered Invicta Diary from 1981 held together by masking tape.  At times I can make out her instructions easily, but then a narrowing letter and hastily written string of words leaves me searching the recipe for clues, sleuthing to work out how to bring together the ingredients, battling against oil stains, cocoa and faded ink.

The diary takes me by the hand, leading me to childhood; her strawberry mousse light on my tongue, hot little Queen Cakes all buttery in their paper wrappers leaving crumbs on my lips and  eating cream and fruit in delicate glass bowls with teaspoons used mostly at Christmas. The tried and true favourites are marked clearly with ticks and flourishes, ‘Lumberjack Cake’, ‘Best Lemon Cake’ and ‘Plum, Nectarine and Fig Compote’. Transported, I’m sitting in the kitchen watching her wooden spoon beat sugar and butter, licking the bowl and in general watching in awe as she rules her kitchen. My Grandmother would never consider herself a great cook, I know the particular chuckle she would give me if I told her so. But, as I hold her recipe book broken at the seams, I know it all boils down to love. You can’t go wrong when love as your key ingredient, that… and a little bit of cocoa.